As a technology journalist I feel compelled to do this, every once in a while. Jot up some of the newest techs — rather, gadgets, mostly smartphones and tablets — and provide my two cents. Though, I’m not much of a techie, and techie’s will certainly make fun of me when I slip up, but that doesn’t matter. I guess. I’m looking at this as an average dude that doesn’t much of an idea about the technology world.

  •  Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge

They’re both gorgeous. Finally, Sammy got rid of the plastic and pushed through with building something metallic – which actually feels premium on hand. They’ve managed to do so, without actually putting too much weight on the devices. The Gorilla Glass panels are nice, but anything other than white, leaves a bad smudge of fingerprints. Also, the S6 edge has a few cool gimmicks like the Edge Lighting. But ultimately, I’m not interested in Samsung. The prices for these two in this back alley country are ridiculous – and they’re trying too hard to compete with Apple, and with the obvious design similarities, Samsung is proving that Apple is a leader in the smartphone industry. In the end, people are just paying the high price for the looks, when they are other smarter options.

  • ASUS Zenfone 2

The Zenfones 4, 5, and 6, had been amazing, and everyone pretty much got caught off guard with its more than ok specs and its really awesome price. I’ve got two buddies buying the Zenfone 5 and one Zenfone 4. I’ve seen people in trains, out of 10 of them, I could spot at least 1 or 2 each day using the Zenfone 5. I’ve never seen much use the 4, but I’ve never seen anyone use the 6. There was one girl that’s part of the ASUS team who does, I don’t know if that counts.

Anyway, now the Zenfone 2 is out in some countries, and since I’m not writing for the newspaper this time around – I can openly say, without remorse, the Zenfone 2 lacks the ambitious achievement the previous ones had. For starters, features like Kid Mode is nothing new, I don’t know who started that but I’ve been seeing it as far as 2012 with Samsung’s Ativ S. Touch gestures that opens a specific app while the device is asleep, is also nothing new, China-peeps like Oppo has done that already and more often than not, those stuff is a disappointment. Oppo’s only working touch gesture shortcut thing only worked on their camera app and nothing else. I’m not sure how much ASUS has improved on that, but please, it’s nothing innovative. SnapView is another thing, Samsung has Knox, which is pretty much identical – it opens up a different interface with a different password to protect private data. Again, nothing mind blowing. Double tap to wake up the device, again, it’s nothing fantastic, cause LG has been doing that, and it’s quite irksome while in the pocket.

Then there’s the design, it features a metallic hairline finish that feels premium on hand. I love it, holding it is solid, and steps on most devices made with plastic. But the thing is, the button placements have been shifted. Volume buttons have been moved from the side to the back, where the index finger could reach it with no hassle (or more of a hassle, it’s a love-hate thing, as far as I’m aware of, personally I love it – G3 user here!). The thing is, back buttons have been around, I could be wrong,  but if my poor memory serves, this crazy idea to put buttons at the back of the phone started with LG’s G2, which made headlines a few years back. The difference is the power button, which has been placed on top of the Zenfone 2. That button is darn hard to press and is a bit hard to reach. But the happy thought is, you don’t need the power button since you can double-tap the screen. So, the Zenfone 2’s power button firmness issue, not a big deal, and the button itself isn’t really necessary — unless the phone crashes.

ASUS has carefully selected features from other flagship devices, leaving out some of the useless ones (fingerprint scanner, seriously, only Apple has done that right), and summed it all into their very own, Zenfone 2. Now here’s the kicker, the Zenfone 2 will price is the mind blowing part. You get all these awesome specs, pretty features, but it’s always the price that will set this thing apart from the rest. In a recent event, I flew all the way to Indonesia for the release there, and the 4GB RAM version roughly costs 5 million rupias, which is about 350 US dollars. I haven’t checked actual prices from other countries, a high-spec smartphone with a cost of 3 or 4 Galaxy S6 edges? Worth it.

  • Macpower Marketing’s Pacquiao vs Mayweather Jr

Okay, this is more of an unofficial advertisement for a friend of mine. He works at this place called Macpower Marketing, which is a distributor of gadget accessories like Fluxmob, that Woodford lightning cable thing, and MB Quart Bluetooth speakers, for example. They’ve been having it tough for now, well, mainly because they’re stuff are expensive. In this back alley country, just cause you got a freaking iPhone don’t mean you’re a person of wealth. In this back alley country, a lot of people with low income has an iPhone, or the most expensive Android device out there. People find ways, sometimes dirty. So anyway, this Macpower people, they’re sponsoring tickets for the Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr fight, this May. If you’re around this back alley country, give those dudes’ FB page a like. They’ve got awesome stuff, just expensive.

  • Sony Xperia Z4

Oh man. This stuff is an embarrassment. Don’t even bother Sony, just, get rid of the Xperia line for good. You’ve ruined it for all eternity. When Sony released it in Japan only, they even bother putting up a huge event as they usually do. It’s like, they’ve accepted defeat, and just threw this lame product out there. Don’t get me wrong, the Z4 has some pretty awesome specs. But if you know Sony’s history, what the hell is the deal with releasing flagship devices every 6 months? And the leap between devices hasn’t been that great as well. Sure, the jump from the Sony-Ericsson line to a the first Xperia Z was brilliant. Then Z1 came out, and it’s awesome! Z2 came out 6 months later, and it’s not much different from the Z1, and it just pissed people off. Z3 came out, and it looks different, but the innards are only a slight upgrade, which pissed more people off – if you’ve never owned a Sony Xperia, then it’s brilliant, otherwise, it’s crap. Then now, Z4… Sony, I really want you to succeed, and I’m darn sure am not alone in this, but you’re making it way too hard for us to love your phones. But this isn’t working. You’ve gotten rid of your Vaio laptops, and humor has it, even the Bravia line. Okay, fine, just don’t give up on the PlayStation consoles! It’s my entire, sad, gaming life. Also, from what I’ve learned, Sony will be exploring more onto VR technology, so, let’s see.

  • LG G4

I have nothing to say about it. I haven’t checked its specs, its leaked stuff, or whatever. All I know it’s coming out this week or the next, the ASEAN release will be held on Singapore, if memory serves. Ever since I’ve shifted from Samsung Ativ S to a more measly LG L70, and upgraded to an LG G3, I’ve never been happier with my mobile device. I’ve never bought a phone before, ever, and most of the devices I used were from the office. But the G3 has been the exception, cause I believed it was high time to get my own stuff, which I did a few weeks ago. A part of me wished I got the G3 Stylus instead, it’s got lower specs but with longer lasting battery life. But the few thousand-shedding made the difference. So, anyway, I’m placing blatant faith in LG to bring out a really awesome phone in the form of G4.

Five hours in Yharnam

Bloodborne fucking rocks!

It is the reason to get a PS4, if you haven’t already.

We received the Bloodborne package on Friday night, either as a thank you (for a badly written, prompt game review) or intended as an actual review (which we can’t anymore, cause of the badly written, prompt one) and then we spent the better part of Saturday in the office playing it.

As the headline suggests, I’ve managed to play Bloodborne for a measly five hours. Not enough time. It’s not much game time, but trust me on this, the experience so far has been rewarding. Like, rags to riches kind of reward, emotionally and spiritually – not, physically. Okay, that was a terrible thing to say…

Anyway as much as we can tell, Bloodborne is an unforgiving beast if you’re a slacker. The game requires you to be aggressive, at the same time, tactical in your approach as players are required to balance out offense and evasion as both are limited for a short time. If you’re used to hiding behind shields in previous Souls games, then you’re 100% fucked, so better start dodging good. If you look at it this way, Bloodborne can be the Souls’ training wheels for dodging. But not a great deal, since these two games have different game mechanics.

The city of Yharnam, in a way, is a labyrinth,  a massive puzzle as players run around opening shortcuts, finding treasures, and discovering interconnected routes. While there were games in the past that had been described as having a repetitive level design, grass-grass-oh, a mountain-grass-grass-and-more-fucking-grass, Yharnam doesn’t stray too far. The city’s Gothic feel is pretty much the same, stairs, hallways, and everything else you would see in a city, but by all means, Yharnam is not repetitive, far from it. The city constantly keeps players on the edge. Enemies lurk in corners, and while fending off a frontal attack, there will always be a chance that one or two a-holes have managed to sneak behind the player. Some bosses, such as Father Gas-whatever-you-pronounce-it, who moves in such incredible speed and attacks like a real motherfucker. Just, check out those YouTube vids of that fight. Damn, and that’s only the second boss of the game – or first, depending if you fought the Cleric Beast beforehand.

What I really liked about in the game is the absence of bullshit things to do. You’ve got games like Dragon Age: Inquisition that adds an illusion to game-length by making you run around like a fucking idiot, chasing after shard-thingies or connecting dots to make a picture. Yes, they yield rewards too, but they’re like payments after a job you hate. Collecting them is like collecting stale checks where you need to undergo a couple of headaches to fix. The very least, the blood shards, the gems, and all the stuff you just happen to pick up in Bloodborne, are all wonders that can be used immediately that makes a huge damn difference. That extra 1.5% damage increase from an item you just found? Worth it. Collecting useless shit for two hours to gain that 20-40% elemental resist? … Maybe worth it, in the long run, but those hours spent doing basically nothing, is never worth it. Bloodborne is brutal and relentless, but with mercy, their reward system is fast and efficient without making the experience a chore.

I’m not really sure how to close this post. So, here’s something from YT, the OST of the first/second boss of the game. Also, this game seems to have drawn influence from Lovecraft, which is always sweetens the pot.

Innards of an Erratic Writer #11

I am proud to say that most of my biggest stories are almost done, and whichever hits 100% first will obviously get top priority for rewrites.

That unknown titled project – but has an actual name all ready – is close to 80% done. There are some things I need to bridge, since I skipped a couple of important stuff. The real problem would be fixing the early chapters. It should rake up between 70,000 to 80,000 words when the final draft comes up.

Looking back into this project, it was meant to be a 300,000 to 400,000-word standalone monster. It’s a shadow twin to another massive tome, with a couple of things replaced. This project started after reading Brandon Sanderson’s “The Rithmatist” and it sort of hit me that I wanted to write something simple that is cool and hip. I’ve got some issues with the prose, but those will be ironed out in future drafts. The non-shadow twin, was inspired by Neal Stephenson’s “Anathem.” It was a massive book, intelligent and fierce, and I felt I wanted to throw in something like that with a touch of Pat Rothfuss’ “The Name of the Wind.”

Obviously, I won’t be getting anywhere with a 300,000-word juggernaut so I simply downsized everything, hoping I’ve kept the juicy bits.

Project Abyss is about 75% done.

After which, will immediately head straight to the cooling pan for a few days, and the actual edits would follow. It is a 70,000-word story that is extraordinarily violent for a young adult market. I mean it. We’re talking about Hellraiser stuff here. Well, not that grotesque really. But lots of guts spilled, blood showers, and nude parties.

While waiting for the edits to sizzle in, I’m conjuring my first ever query letter. And yes, it is damn hard, scary thing to do. If the query fucks up, the whole story fucks up. And time is at an essence here, since I really doubt that this thing would be out in the shelves any time soon – or even if it will ever. Cross fingers, and a lot of prayers.

Beyond the query, I’ve advanced the sequel, Project Abyss 2, and so far has fared better than expected. The whole world has already been set up, it’s just a matter of getting from point A to B to C and so on, with a lot of lore to add, and more internal organs erupting like dear Old Faithful.

Project Abyss will be a trilogy, and is part of a bigger world, though not necessarily within the same timeline and not necessarily connected.

On other news. I’m writing two entries for Writers of the Future. Both may become a novelette, and so far Entry B is looking really good. Hopefully I finish them up soon, polished and all and start blinding people by how shiny it is. Anyhow, that’s it and I’m out for today.